Monday, July 9, 2012

Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work. - Booker T. Washington

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 355:

You want to know what I've been up to the last few days, BlogLand? I have been putting the exclamation point on the end of "I turned THIRTY in a BIG effing way!"

This was a year of changes, so it felt fitting to spend my birthday weekend celebrating those new abilities, interests and accomplishments.

Friday morning (my actual birthday) found me up early for work and with a deep breath, getting on the scale. You see, BlogLand, in the not so distant past, I weighed 284 pounds (probably more, but 284 was the last time I weighed myself). It was my goal to be under 200 pounds by my 30th birthday. All week long I was really careful about what I was eating, mindful of drinking my water, etc. because I *really* wanted this. Honestly, I'm not sure I was one-ninety-anything, even in high school. I stepped onto the scale, with slightly shaking legs and taking deep breaths. I was reminding myself that - really - the number didn't matter; I was leaps and bounds healthier than I ever have been, numbers were inconsequential. However, I can't help it... those numbers seemed significant.

*deep breath*

.............................................194 pounds.

That is a total 90 pound weight loss. Holy shit, BlogLand. I texted the GT and we virtually jumped up and down in text message. I hadn't just hit my goal, I'd "absolutely crushed it." I cried. For real. Tears streaming down my face. Happy tears, but a lot of them.
To put this in perspective, here's a picture of me from a couple summer's ago. I'm approximately 27 years old in this picture:

I'm somewhere around 280, I'm wearing a size 20-22, I can't run at all and I was letting life just carry me along.

Here's a picture from my 30th Birthday Party:

In this picture, I am 194 pounds, sitting in a pair of size 14 jeans, celebrating the fact that I had taken the reins of my life and was basking in my accomplishments. While most people turn 30 with trepidation, I was EXCITED. I have big plans for this year, including a Spartan Trifecta (Sprint, Super, Beast), a half marathon and breaking a few 5 and 10K time Personal Records. Take THAT, 30! I'm doing things at 30 years old that I couldn't have even fathomed at 24-25. 

So, Friday night was a little gathering at my Dad's house. Some great friends and family, having a relatively "healthy" dinner and party. There wasn't copious amounts of cake or anything like that. We had mini (whole wheat) personal pizzas on the grill (YUM. If you've never tried this, get on it. Crispy and awesome!) and dessert consisted of small slices of maple creemee (an epic VT soft serve ice cream, because c'mon, you gotta live a LITTLE) with fruit. Yes, there were a few margaritas (HEY. It was my birthday!)... 
It was interesting to see how different the gifts were this year, too. One of my staunch supporters and BFF's got me a Ninja Blender (BADASS!!!!) to keep me rolling with my protein smoothies, another gave me some money towards my desperate need for a new pair of Inov8's (mine now have matching holes and I think they're headed to their last race this weekend... :-( )... but my Dad's presents took the cake (pun intended). While I know this new lifestyle and change has been difficult for him to wrap his head around (and also me spending money to travel to these races to torture myself... lol), but it would seem maybe he's actually getting on board. I got a bunch of money to buy myself some new clothes in my new size (MUCH needed.), as well as a big, framed picture of my fire-jump picture from my first Spartan Race (see the above picture). It was a pretty defining moment and deserving of a frame. I think I need to find a wall in my house to put it, where I can surround it by some other "accomplishment" pictures - my first 5K, things like that. HMM.

Saturday found me up in Burlington, continuing the celebrations - I went out to a healthy lunch (no/low carbs) and then went to the Outdoor Gear Exchange, to check out what one needs to do a little rock climbing. Let me first say that I was not at all excited to walk in the door there... while I have made a lot of life changes, it is hard to get your own head around the fact that you are now *not* the fat chick who can't use any of this stuff. I was pretty sure, walking in there, that all the super fit, active people would look at me and KNOW I was out of place. ... only, I wasn't. WEIRD. We talked to people about doing Spartan Races, getting into climbing, and never once did I feel uncomfortable. Further (an amazing realization), there were actually clothes in this store that would FIT ME. While I didn't buy any (if there had been CW-X in stock, I make no promises...), it was just a shocking change of pace... I could buy active wear there, if I wanted to. As a former plus-size only chick, you are typically very very limited to the places you can shop, because no one carries clothes in your size. Specialty stores. Online. Not just a sports store that you walk into off the street. Wow. My things have changed. 

After that, it was off to Petra Cliffs, to learn about rock climbing. Thankfully, since it was a beautiful day out, my CG (Climbing Guru) and I found ourselves in a mostly-empty gym. Woot! There is no better way to suffer your first attempt embarrassments, than in front of a limited audience (I think!). After getting the low down on the basics, I suited up in my fabulous new harness, stuck my hands in my uber adorable chalk bag (apparently the place in climbing that you can chose pretty over functional), and was pointed at the wall. The climb I was to attempt was the easiest one in the gym. Follow the yellow flags on the holds until you get to the top. How hard could it be? I'm not afraid of heights, so all I had to do was hang on and keep moving, right?
This shit is hard, people! 
Initially, you think you've got this, because on these beginner climbs, the holds are pretty big and you've got well spaced places for your feet and hands. However, as a beginner, you're also clinging to them for dear life (ie, burning out your muscles, faster), where you don't need to. I climbed up, hit the top hold and then was suddenly confronted with... "Now what?!" I glanced down at my CG, only to note the major distance down, and the shaking that had suddenly began in my arms. Do I climb down!? This is the point that he informed me to just "Let go." Let GO?! WHAT?! Although, assessing the situation, I realized I had limited options... let go and trust that my gear would all hold me, I wouldn't plummet to my death and all would be well..... or cling to the wall for dear life, like a frozen spider, and then fall when my arms gave out. 
I chose to let go.
With a little nervous yelp as I let go and I was lowered down, I soon found myself with both feet on the floor, sweaty and smiling.
SO. Much. Fun.
I was ready to go again.
.... right after I shook out my burning T-Rex arms.
Next we tackled a slightly harder course, which found me 3/4 of the way up a couple times and dropping off the wall, trying to make the next move with tired hands and arms (guess who has to work on grip strength?). However, not one to give up (This. Is. Spartaaaa!), I would dangle for a second, shake out my arms, assess my mistake, and get myself back at it. I won't like, there were several grunts of effort and more than a few under the breath curses, but I got the job done.
I could see how people get hooked on this. Once I was back on the ground after making it up the first time, with some trouble, I immediately noted, "Again!". There was no way that that was the way I was going to leave that particular course for the day. I knew I could do it better. Back up again. Whew.
After a few more goes, CG and I hit up the bouldering cave for some strength, strategy and grip work. My burned out T-Rex arms were certainly the limiting factor here... although, I sense that that may not be the case for too much longer. The CG immediately went into taskmaster trainer mode (My GT is going to love him.), pushing me from the bouldering work to the weight bench for heavy wrist curls, then over to the pull up bars for hanging and pull up work. And again. And again, until I couldn't close my hands anymore.
As we sat in the car and I struggled to open my water bottle, I was asked what I thought of the day.
BlogLand, that was AWESOME. Climbing is just another of the sort of challenge that I like, I'm finding. It's you against... you. Can you push through the burning in your arms to make that next move. Can you think through the plan to get yourself into the best position? And, not for nothing, I see this as a great way to get my upper body into shape, without sitting through all the usual upper body WOD stuff that gets tedious.
New Goal: One unassisted pull up before the Vermont Spartan Beast in September.

Sunday found me at my Mom's house, for some more fabulous friends and family time, just chillin'. I realized that right then, despite turning 30 and suffering through all the "old" jokes and what not, I was really, really happy with my life. I had SO MANY wonderful people in my life that supported me through my adventures... and while I may not have seen it at the time, shedding the people in my life that didn't want to be involved, has been a blessing.

Monday rounded out my birthday weekend (hey, it's a 30th birthday, it can be a 4-day celebration, right?), with a return to running. My knee has been feeling pretty good, so it was time to get back into training and get out for a run. I called up one of my running buddies, Stacey, and we set out for a "easy 5K", as I was supposed to be easing back into things. I think Stacey may have said it best in her blog recap:
"So, I headed out for a run with Aja, who is suposed to be in recovery mode still.  Little did I know that when a beast is caged for weeks on end, their eventual release is a sight to behold.  We RAN.  Uphill, through neighborhoods, downhill, up some more, and around the city. "

I swear, Blogland, I had no intention of it happening quite like that... we started out at an easy 11 min/mi. and had to tackle a couple of hills, just because of where we live... but then my knee was feeling good, Stacey was having no problem keeping up, and I guess our speed just crept up. It wasn't until the last 1/2 mile of our blazing 5K that I felt my, 3-week with no runs, lungs protesting just a bit. They were like, uhm, WTF?! What happened about easing back in? But then I hearkened back to the times that my lungs would burn and I would pant just trying to run a mile and I reminded myself that my lungs would not explode... and since my knee felt okay, I just kept running. 

After all was said and done, Stacey and I completed our 5K at a blazing 9:45-9:55 min/mi pace. Maybe not exactly what I had in mind for "recovery"... but it felt GREAT. GREEEAAAT. BlogLand, hear me when I say, I had missed running. Now, just to be careful, I did make sure to walk about a mile of recovery, as well as do all my prescribed stretches when I got home... and I'm happy to say, the knee is doing just fine today.

Looks like I'm in good shape to hit up the Pennsylvania Spartan Sprint this weekend! YAY! Rumor has it is is going to be a hard, ugly one - worse than the Tuxedo, NY one my scars are just healing from... 

All joking aside, BlogLand. It's been an incredible year. At 30 years old, I find myself happy, healthy, focused and charging forward at my goals and ambitions without regret. What else could you ask for?


  1. I've said it are an inspiration!! I'm truly amazed at how far you have come this year!!

  2. You are so amazing!!

    Katie webber

  3. Going to follow this for inspiration....I am at 50 pounds lost and you are my new hero!

    Rosina Gonzalez

  4. Congrats! And belated happy birthday! You have been an inspiration over the last year.